By Serene Al-Kawas
Atlanta based artist Jiha Moon is currently showcasing her latest body of work Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts at Saltworks Gallery. During an artist talk last Saturday, Moon spoke of her concepts and process, shedding light on her imagination and method as an artist. The talk, though brief, held none of the trappings of elitist or esoteric art, rather a very interesting and relatable Moon spoke candidly of her life experience and how it has informed her artwork.
The exhibition consists of vibrantly colored paintings, prints and one installation piece. It is at once both engaging and difficult. Moon’s paintings feature swirling and almost mythical looking figures layered upon one another, creating an Asian aesthetic true to her Korean roots. Hidden within these layers is slightly more unusual imagery, pulled from different parts of Moon’s imagination and life experience. The installation piece included in the exhibition relates directly to the imagery and ideas in her work, and serves as a three-dimensional retrospective of Moon’s inspirations.
Three walls brightly lined with vibrant stripes and shelves house hundreds of items and imagery that Moon has collected over her lifetime. From McDonalds’ prizes to cereal box color registrations, to candy wrappers, this small and seemingly worthless junk amassed over her lifetime tangibly shows Moon’s aesthetic and the way in which she takes in her surroundings. Moon’s ability to visually marry her Korean and Western worlds in such a telling and beautiful way is a perfect illustration of her intentions as an artist.
During her talk, Moon cited the work’s titles as tangible reflections of her initial ideas and as starting points for each individual piece. She noted that these concepts often change and grow through her process of “discovery,” defined by Moon as the research and physical growth within her work. This translates visually into the multiple layers of imagery within her paintings and prints, again pushing the viewer to engage deeply with the work. When asked why she did not frame her work, Moon first spoke of the tactile surfaces that would be covered by the glass, and then in her increasingly endearing way, Moon simply said, “Frames are expensive.” With so many pieces sold that one viewer asked if the red dot stickers showing a piece has been purchased were a part of the work, Moon is clearly addressing a visual and artistic need in her viewers that has yet to be tapped.
Jiha Moon’s Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts will be at Saltworks Gallery until March 6, 2010.
Serene Al-Kawas is an artist living in Atlanta.